South Bend, IN 3/30/2014
JR Shapiro has been with the Street Kids Softball organization for over 10 years. He has been an excellent coach with manager TJ Jorgensen and has studied the game as much as anyone, even from the early days when SKS made their tournament debut in Class E. Just because Shapiro has never been a regular starter in a traveling tourney team does not mean he doesn't know the game.
"I've been watching this game for years," said the veteran coach. "Years ago, when Terry (Patesel) was playing at some higher levels of softball, his brother (Joe Richard) and I would go watch him play. I loved watching the fast paced action of upper ball. It was awesome to see the excellent defense, power and skill of these guys and I knew I wanted to be involved for the long haul - at some capacity."
Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Shapiro and Jorgensen have helped guide SKS to four state titles, two national titles and 56 tournament wins. No season was bigger than the 2011 season when SKS played in 19 tournaments and reached the championship game in 18 of them, including the finals of the NSA B worlds and NSA Super B worlds.
With Jorgensen stepping down from active coaching, Shapiro will step into the role as the head coach for the first time in his career, but he will rely heavily on the help from Patesel, who returns as a veteran leader to the team.
"Terry is a people person, he knows players and he knows the game better than any of us so he will play a huge role in our leadership, from both a coaching stand point and a player stand point," said Shapiro.
Nine players that were in SKS uniform in 2013 are gone with some new faces joining several returning players. Among the top returners are two of the biggest run producers in recent SK history, Joe Horvath and Jay Jeffery. The two combined to drive in over 1,200 runs over the past three years, despite both missing action at separate times over that time frame with injuries.
Also returning in 2014 are former gold glove winners Tim Austin and Kevin Lewandowski, along with Nick Bishop, Tony Hardiman, Scott Martin and Terry Patesel. Martin led the team with 197 hits and was second on the team last year with 159 RBI's.
Newcomers this year include former MVP and future Hall of Famer Lanny Fisher, who returns to the mound to replace Faron Miller. Fisher set many SKS records during his tenure with the team in the late 2000's. His .756 batting average in 2008 is still a team record (Jay Jeffery finished one point behind in 2011). Also joining the team this year is what some are calling the best middle infielder outside of the conference. Bobby Edelberg comes from a family of softball players. His two older brothers Corey and Tim both played for many years (and still play part time to this day). Bobby has some of the smoothest moves on defense and perhaps the quickest hands at the turn in the country.
Also joining the team are outfielders Mike Bailey and Ronnie Simmons, who played with Region last year. Bailey has played with SKS in pick up tourneys and leagues for the last several years and has worked hard on his game to get to the next level.
"This is an exciting time and a start to a new era of SKS," said the new outfielder. "I feel like I have been a part of the family for a while and to now join the tourney team is exciting. I cannot wait to see what this team can do on the field."
Rounding out the squad are Jamie Simpson, Joel Wolbers and utlity man Jake Fine, who brings a lot of speed and defense to this team. Simpson played college baseball and is a pure athlete who will turn into a phenomenal softball player very quickly. Wolbers has the ability to play both infield and outfield and his veteran experience will blend in nicely with the youth and other veterans on the team.
SKS made their season debut last weekend in Columbus and despite only having nine players (and two pickups) in uniform, they felt there were a lot of bright spots and are looking forward to what this team can do starting next weekend in Indianapolis at their first ever USSSA event. Jorgensen has the utmost confidence in his predecessor and coaching staff.
"If I did not think JR and Terry could handle this, I would have just shut it down," said Jorgensen, who despite retiring from the tourney team will still play leagues. "JR has been right beside me through every high and low that I have been through with SKS. The players respect him, other teams respect him and so do association officials and directors. Terry has been like a big brother to me for over a decade and I know he will be a huge help to JR in the dugout. I am really excited for what this team can do in 2014."